13 Jun 2012

European Commission accused of delaying Pacific partnerships

12:49 pm on 13 June 2012

Pacific Islands ministers are accusing the European Commission of delaying negotiations for an economic partnership agreement for the Pacific.

The African, Caribbean and Pacific council of ministers have been meeting in Vanuatu and will meet with the European Union council of ministers from Thursday.

Megan Whelan reports from Port Vila.

"EPAs were due to come into force in 2008, but from the region, only Fiji and Papua New Guinea have signed interim agreements, and there has been no formal negotiation since 2009. The Pacific's spokesperson for EPAs, Tonga's minister of commerce, Isileli Pulu, says it was always understood those interim agreements would be a stepping stone towards a comprehensive EPA. Isileli Pulu says the European Commission has continually deferred meeting the Pacific region for a formal negotiating session, and has been coercing the Pacific ACP region to accept the interim EPA. He says major industries in Fiji could face disruption and could collapse if it is forced to accept the interim EPA permanently. Mr Pulu says it is obvious that by its actions the EU does not want to conclude negotiations with the Pacific."